After regular season-opening losses to the Dallas Cowboys (35-17, Sept. 8) and Buffalo Bills (28-14, Sept. 15) in which the offense's ineptitude plagued the team over the course of the first two games, the Giants put their future for 2019 and beyond into Daniel Jones when they face the Tampa Bay Bucanneers.
Ahead of Sunday's 4:05 p.m. kickoff from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, the Giants (0-2) turned to the rookie quarterback after second-year head coach Pat Shurmur named the No. 6 overall 2019 NFL draft pick the starter over 16th-year veteran Eli Manning.
While the Giants' move from Manning to Jones assumes that the team has given up on its win-now mode and begun the rebuild, Shurmur emphasized Friday from Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, why the decision took place now.
"I think that (the roster is) looking at this move based on the fact that we're trying to beat Tampa Bay," Shurmur said. "Our future in this business is a short-term horizon. And that's really just what it is."
With Manning's leash short after Jones flashed throughout the preseason and completed 29 of 34 passes (85.3 percent) for 416 yards and two touchdowns to no interceptions in four games, Shurmur pulled the plug Tuesday.
Inflated by dink-and-dunk passes, Manning went 56 for 89 (62.9 percent) with 556 yards and two touchdowns to two interceptions as the Giants' approach became one-dimensional and relied on big plays from versatile running back Saquon Barkley.
Despite the absence of two top wide receivers in veterans Golden Tate (four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs) and Cody Latimer (concussion) before Week 3, Sterling Shepard's return from a concussion figures to help bring Jones along.
"I feel like you've got to be ready when he throws the ball," Shepard said. "We've got a great running back in Saquon, so you've got a guy (in Jones) who can extend plays and use his feet when he has to."
With the exception of the Giants' 24-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders in Week 13 during the 2017 campaign, when former head coach Ben McAdoo started then-backup Geno Smith, Manning manned the offense for Shepard's first three years (2016-18) and change before Shurmur's move to Jones.
Over the past three seasons, Shepard has grown into one of the Giants' top playmakers, catching 190 passes for 2,286 yards (12.0 average) and 14 touchdowns.
In the wake of the swap, Shepard said he has spent his time with Jones after practices throughout the week prior to the Bucanneers game, sticking around for extra routes and more reps.
"It was different for me at first," Shepard said. "I've been with Eli for three seasons now -- the beginning of the fourth, too. He's been a great teammate, he's going to remain a good teammate. The guy handles everything like a pro and he's helping Daniel with preparation, and he'll take his role serious and do everything to help Daniel out. So yeah, it is what it is."
Behind an improved offensive line, the disposal of weapons around Jones includes tight end Evan Engram, who has recorded 17 receptions on 22 targets for 164 yards and a touchdown through the Giants' first two games.
Despite some limitations without Tate and Latimer, Jones largely has the same tools as Manning did at his disposal as he debuts against the Bucanneers (1-1).
With the first peak at the Giants' quarterback of the future set for Sunday, Shurmur expects the NFL to see what the Giants have been watching unfold since they made him their first-round selection in April.
"I think I saw a week of practice that's been very familiar to us behind the scenes," Shurmur said with a smile. "So (Jones has been) good."